Pentagon’s Acquisition Chief Wants a Budget, Any Budget
What is important is to have a budget, he said. That would relieve some financial pressures although many challenges would still remain.
"The reason I'm a little optimistic is if I look at the two bills on the Hill ... they both leave the budget we stood up reasonably intact. The House added a few things, took some things off, and the Senate did as well, but I don't see a dramatic" difference, Kendall said at a March 20 meeting of the Precision Strike Association in Springfield, Va.
In the meantime, "we're going to have our people very stressed, have our industry very stressed while we work all this out."
If Congress reaches some compromise, civilian furloughs may not be as long as previously projected, Kendall said. Additionally, the Army will be able to resume stalled training for soldiers.
"The Army's problem is that it can't train all of its units," Kendall said. "We have to extend people there [in Afghanistan] because it can't train the people who are supposed to go replace them. … That will get better [with a continuing resolution], but again, that probably won't get solved."
Even if a budget is passed, the Pentagon will still undergo across-the-board cuts of about $40 billion this fiscal year because of sequestration, he said. Next fiscal year, the Pentagon can tailor those cuts to specific areas.
As officials decide where they would have to make cuts, Kendall said he worried about what the structure of the budget would look like.
Under current plans, Pentagon officials decided to slowly draw down force structure and cut research-and-development and procurement funding during the next five years. In the five years after that, procurement is slated to grow again, Kendall said.
“There's going to be sort of a debate in the Pentagon about priorities, and it's going to be in large part about current force structure versus future equipment and future technology and how much readiness we have. Those are the parameters,” he said. "It takes time to remove force structure."
Kendall said the Defense Department has excess capacity from the last batch of base closures conducted in 2005, but stopped short of saying the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget would contain a call for another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
Obtaining congressional authorization to start the process will be difficult, as legislators are likely to fight any action that could close a base in their home district. Kendall said such refusals would be unfair.
"People who oppose BRAC, they want the taxpayers of the country to spend money on installations, because it's going to help protect their district," he said. "Essentially the taxypayers of the country are carrying the load."
He also called on Congress to agree on a “grand bargain” that would reduce the deficit by tackling entitlements.
"We're basically taking money out of all of the discretionary accounts, both domestic and military, which is not where the deficit problem really resides," he said. "The deficit problem resides in the entitlement accounts.”
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